Asus ROG Flow Z13 Review: Incredibly Powerful Gaming Tablet With A Quirk
Last year we took a look at a really interesting laptop, the ROG Flow X13. It was thin, it was light and it’s a convertible. But yet, it could rock a Ryzen 9 and GTX 1650 combo which made it really awesome for gaming on the go. This year, the X13 received a well-needed refresh… but that’s not what we have with us here today. This is the ROG Flow Z13 and it’s kind of liking the same idea, but packaging it in a different way. To cut straight to the point, this is pretty amazing… but not without its quirks.
So this is the Z13 and straight away, you can probably tell where the train of thought diverged. Like the X13, it’s also a hybrid kind of device. But instead of a convertible, the Z13 is an actual 2-in-1 device like a Microsoft Surface Pro. Which of course means there’s pros and cons.
Unlike a traditional clamshell type laptop, you can’t really use this comfortably on your lap. On the other hand however, since the keyboard is detachable, it is much easier to use it like an actual tablet. The list goes on, but you get the gist. Make no mistake if you’re deciding between the X13 and the Z13.
If you’re talking about design however, I personally feel the edge goes to this, the Z13. It just looks more interesting with a little more character but yet at the same time, still minimalistic enough. You’re getting a solid build quality here and the overall chassis is almost entirely made out of aluminum.
The kickstand is properly solid and remains in position and there’s even a small glass window on the back that showcases some of the internal components, which can be further accentuated with RGB. Gimmicky to some perhaps, but we would say it’s a nice touch and really stays true to being an ROG device. Interestingly enough, the ROG branding on the back also acts as the vents for the fans, quite the nice touch.
By itself, this weighs 1.18 kilograms or 2.60 lbs. Add on the keyboard accessory and that increases to 1.52 kilograms or 3.35 lbs. But the front is where you are going to spend the most time with and thankfully, it’s a pretty great experience.
13.4-inches, IPS, 1,920 x 1,200 at 120Hz, touch support, up to 500 nits in brightness, covers 100% sRGB and is Pantone Validated. Of course it’s no OLED, but it’s a darn good IPS display. Everything looks great with punchy and vibrant colors and the 120Hz refresh rate makes everything just feels much more intuitive especially when using it like a tablet. Of course, that also means it’s great for gaming as well. Additionally, the Full HD resolution works really well at this screen size and the 16 by 10 aspect ratio does give you just a little more real screen estate to work with.
Now there is a 4K option available as well, but I would say that Full HD is the better option here. Firstly, because the 4K option is limited to just 60Hz and secondly, at that resolution, you’re still only getting effectively a Full HD usable area since you’ll likely be using Windows Scaling at 200%. Things will look sharper for sure, but you don’t get the benefit of space from upping the resolution. So, I would definitely recommend the Full HD 120Hz panel here.
But turn to the back and you actually do get a 8 megapixel rear camera as well. Which can be handy if you need to take a quick photo and send it straight away. Are you going to use it often? Probably not. But it’s there.
We then have the detachable keyboard and this, is in all regards, honestly pretty great. I like it very much. The material and finish is great. It has a soft velvety fabric on the outside and a really smooth and comfortable leatherette-like material on the inside. The magnetic connector is also really strong and you can hold the tablet up just by the keyboard itself. But more importantly, it feels great to type on with full RGB backlighting. The same can be said for the trackpad as well which is surprisingly great despite the small size.
The best thing however is that you don’t feel the heat when you’re playing games and more. Precisely because of the design of the Z13 as compared to the X13, the internal components are all within the tablet portion of the device. So any heat generated, it’s on the display side of things, not on the keyboard like a traditional laptop design. Which makes it that much more comfortable in my opinion.
But we now come to ports, and this is where things get a little perplexing. You get a single Thunderbolt 4 port, the XG Mobile Interface which also includes a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port, a microSD card reader underneath the kickstand, a 3.5mm combo jack and last but not least, a USB 2.0 Type-A port.
Yes, you heard me right. That last standard USB port is of USB 2.0 speeds only. I have no idea why. There are some comments in reddit and forums that Asus was basically unable to include some connectors and things for USB 3 speeds and above, but I’m not entirely sure. Even weirder because the X13 supports 3.2 Gen2 but not this. In any case, it’s just USB 2 so while it’s nice to have something to connect a mouse or a dongle to, that’s it. You won’t use it for file transfer or anything else. That’s for sure.
And this next point isn’t that great as well. Battery life is a little short despite the 62 watt hour battery. Arguably, it’s very likely to do with the inclusion of a full-powered 12th-Gen Core i7 or Core i9. You’re only going to get roughly 5 hours of battery life on Hybrid mode and just shy of 2 hours in Dedicate GPU mode.
But despite the specifications are what make this unique and it really is. For our model, you’re getting a Core i7-12700H, GeForce RTX 3050 with a 40 watt TGP, 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and a 512GB PCIe 4.0 SSD. Using Armoury Crate, you’ll be able to get access to the different power profiles, namely, Silent, Performance and Turbo and you’ll also be able to access the MUX Switch to toggle between Hybrid or Dedicated GPU.
First up we have Cinebench R23 as usual and as you can evidently tell while performance isn’t all that bad, no matter which profile, they all fall short compared to larger laptops that have the very same CPU. On the other hand, thermals and noise are really well controlled. On the Quiet profile, the Core i7 draws about 15 watts and temperatures don’t exceed 60 degrees celsius. That goes up to 35 watts and 70 degree celsius on the Performance profile. As for the Turbo profile, it’s a little weird but the power draw and clock speeds fluctuates. At its lowest point, you’ll see it drawing just about 25 watts and temperatures in the mid 60s while at its highest point, you’ll see it draw up to 80 watts and temperature rises to the mid 70s. Overall despite the fluctuations, it still yielded better scores than the Performance profile.
As for Resolve, it’s a little peculiar but in both Quiet and Performance profile, the time taken to render the 4K 10 minute project were about the same, while only in the Turbo profile is there quite the performance jump. Definitely recommend Turbo if you’re going to leave this to render.
But you’ll probably be gaming for the most part, so here is how it’ll perform especially in eSports titles. In a game like CS:GO or Valorant, it’s really enjoyable with frame rates nearing 200 at the native Full HD resolution. Coupled with that 120Hz display, it’s really fun especially when you can basically game anywhere you want. Even a more graphically demanding game like Apex is really fun as well. Personally, I much prefer Genshin Impact and it performs admirably here. Best of all, like I mentioned earlier, you don’t feel the heat thanks to the design which really improves the experience in my opinion.
Now you can also game more demanding AAA titles like Halo, Cyberpunk and more but I would suggest not to. They’ll perform fine with adequate settings but given the main use cases for this hybrid device, light-hearted and less demanding games are definitely where this excels. But that’s only if you use the Z13 as it is. If you opt for the XG Mobile as well, which includes a RTX 3080, you can pretty much game whatever you want. In terms of temperatures, it really depends on the game. But for the most part both the CPU and GPU will hover in the mid 70s with really reasonable noise levels.
So all in all, what do I feel about the ROG Flow Z13? I do really like it and if I didn’t already have a laptop, this would be a serious consideration for me. However, this is a little pricey. At just under $3000 Singapore Dollars (2,998 SGD), it is about 300 dollars more expensive compared to the equivalent X13. (2,698 SGD) which has a better USB port and better battery life to boot.
In terms of US dollars, I don’t have the exact pricing except for the Core i9 and RTX 3050 Ti models, but even then, the Z13 is still the more expensive of the two. Needless to say, add on the XG Mobile and the pricing gets a little ridiculous.
So if you’re deciding and looking at the Z13, definitely also consider the X13. Both are really similar in many aspects with the main difference boiling down to the design itself. The X13 is more of a traditional clamshell type laptop while the Z13 is a true 2-in-1 Hybrid that can be used standalone as a tablet and kitted up with accessories.
Overall, the Z13 is a really nice little gaming machine; it is arguably the most powerful in its class. There’s nothing else quite like it. But it does have its flaws and compared to its traditional sibling, perhaps not as great a value. But overall, I'm still really impressed with what Asus was able to achieve in this form factor and they are setting a bar for how portable yet powerful a computing device can be.